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Books to wean you off your pandemic-inspired TV addiction


Andre Boukreev | Shutterstock

Zelda Caldwell - published on 10/21/21

Screen time has dramatically increased due to the pandemic. Here are some book suggestions for movie lovers, designed to help you rediscover your love for reading

Americans spent more time in front of a TV or a computer than they did before the start of the coronavirus pandemic, a recent UCLA study found. 

Much more time. 

Screen time increased by a whopping 60.4% as people gravitated towards the sofa while restricted from doing their usual activities. Incidentally, the study also found that in that period there was also a marked increase in alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking and a decline in exercise. 

It’s possible that as pandemic restrictions have decreased, so have the bad habits Americans acquired during the pandemic. The study’s researchers offer the caveat that the analysis was conducted using data taken at the height of the pandemic.

A TV habit is hard to kick

That said, some habits die hard, and watching TV, whether it’s Netflix, whatever game happens to be on, or the latest reality TV show, is the sort of habit that is hard to break because it doesn’t necessarily negatively impact with one’s life, at least in any obvious way. An active alcoholic, for example, may seek help because he or she is not able to perform at work. A chronic overeater may lay off the Häagen-Dazs when clothes no longer fit. Time spent on the couch may even be the only significant chunk of time spent with other family members, making it not an altogether terrible vice.

Nevertheless, if your TV habit nags at you, that “still, small voice” may be trying to tell you that you ought to put down the remote once in a while, and spend the evening with a book.

Here are a few suggestions for books that may help wean you off your screens. They hold the attractions of what you might find streaming now (mystery! romance! history! comedy!), but also provide beautiful turns of phrase, and food for thought and imagination that only a well-crafted book affords. Tucking into a good book is pretty cozy too — you don’t even have to get off the couch.

1. Romance: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

If you like period dramas with a bit of romance, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is an obvious choice for a good book, and one that rewards rereading. Besides being fantastically witty and fun to read, the virtues and lack of virtues imbued in Austen’s characters are worthy of study, and the novel contains truths that can illuminate our own lives. Read this series on “Austen, Aristotle, and Aquinas” by Br. Aquinas Beale, OP if you are not convinced there is more here than just the brooding good looks of Mr. Darcy.

2. Thriller: The Power and the Glory and Brighton Rock by Graham Greene

Graham Greene will slake your thirst for the deep, dark, thriller. Reading these two books is like traveling to another country— it’s somewhat recognizable and familiar, but because it is alien it has a way of cutting through the superficial and revealing certain perhaps hidden (and disturbing) truths.

3. History: Witness to Hope by George Weigel

This essential biography of Pope St. John Paul II should satisfy any lover of historical documentaries, whether he or she is religious or not. To read this book is to gain an understanding of our modern world, but also to come closer to this great saint and mystic whose message of hope still resonates today.

4. Horror: The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty

This 1971 horror novel about demonic possession will beat anything you can find on Netflix at scaring you silly. The late William Peter Blatty was also a faithful Catholic, and this book takes the Devil seriously, but in a way that takes God even more seriously. In explaining how he came to decide to write the book, Blatty once said, ”what happens in these cases could really be a boost to the faith. It could show people that the spiritual world is real.”

5. Comedy: Morte D’Urban by J.F. Powers

You might want to follow that horror novel with a bit of a humor chaser before you retire to bed.  J.F. Powers’ 1963 novel features a cultivated sort of celebrity priest, Father Urban, who has been sent by his provincial head to a nowheresville — a retreat house in rural Minnesota. This comic novel won the National Book Award for fiction and will be more satisfying than any episode of Seinfeld you might consider watching.

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